100,000 Opioid Deaths May Breed Wrong Solutions

Sad paramedics in an ambulance

As acknowledged by the White House, this past year, the United States surpassed 100,000 deaths attributed to opioids in a 12 month period; for the first time in history. The main culprit is illicit fentanyl that has tainted the drug supply and caused a massive increase in overdoses. Fentanyl is extremely strong and minute amounts of it can kill. Opioid abuse has been a problem for the past couple of decades and many measures have been employed to arrest the problem. Unfortunately, the problem has gotten worse, not better. MAT programs, short-term rehabilitation centers, and harm reduction measures have not lowered the death toll nor prevented us from reaching this morbid milestone. With this giant increase in deaths, there is likely going to be a new push for safe injections sites, needle exchanges, and more harm reduction methods. At this point, it seems society has been trying to handle the wrong problem. The problem isn’t that users don’t have a safe place to consume drugs or have enough access to detox and MAT. The problem is that societally, we need to handle the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual reasons substance users take drugs.

Never in recorded history has our society seen this many deaths in a year attributed to substance abuse. This many deaths was a 28.5% increase over the numbers from last year. Currently, the President is asking Congress to approve more than $10 billion in funding for drug rehabilitation initiatives with an emphasis on harm reduction methods which include safe injection sites where people can consume drugs, without fear of prosecution, and under medical supervision. There are strong opinions on both sides. Some believe that if people are going to use dangerous drugs, they might as well do it safely and the other side doesn’t believe drug users should be provided with safe places to use illegal narcotics.

The solution isn’t figuring out how people can safely use drugs or reduce the harm associated with substance abuse. All that does is give some people a reason not to go to a treatment center.

The solution lies in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual reasons people consume narcotics. Often drugs have filled a hole for people that no amount of therapy, counseling, money, religion, or even success could fill. Unwinding an addiction has to hit all the above points to a degree that a person realizes that their life will be more fulfilling if they’re sober. Until a drug user believes at their core that life is better sober, they will likely continue using and filling that void.

We should look at this year’s death toll as a hard slap to the face. Here’s the reality, we haven’t fixed the drug problem yet and unfortunately it’s gotten worse. We can’t just shut our borders and try to smite drugs from the planet because that isn’t a possibility. Drugs will always be here. What needs to get dealt with is the demand for them.




Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 11 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.